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Stained Glass
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STAINED GLASS Stained Glass in Italy

THE Umbrian school of glass workers, the earliest of which we have existing samples, appears to have developed the art in close association with the builders of Basilican churches. Their work as seen in the nave window of San Francesco Assisi and in the large window above the entrance door of the Duomo, Florence, is distinctive, for the delicacy of pale tones in the glass and for tenderness of religious feeling, expressed in the drawing of the figures as well as by the harmony of color in the pattern borders.
    The technical work of the earliest glass construction in Italy was similar to the process followed in France and England, with the exception that in the iron frame work the bars of iron were usually straight across the windows from side to side and fastened into the masonry, and were not bent into medallion shapes as French medallions are seen to be from the exterior view of a thirteenth-century window.
    It would seem that each step in advancing the technical perfection of manufacture as practiced in the fifteenth century in Italy was a backward step for the worker who used colored glass in "composing a window," as the Monk Theophilus puts it so graphically in his description of the art. Not only did the glass itself under advancing conditions of "perfection" become harsh in color unsuited to the use of glass workers, but other influences gradually made themselves felt in changing the glass worker from the producer of the really monumental art of the thirteenth century to that of the mere copyists of the rising school of Renaissance painters in their sixteenth century.
    There were many of Italy's masters who keenly appreciated this tendency in its beginning, and who refused to permit the influence of the North, where painted glass already superseded mosaic glass, to change the composition of stained glass windows in essentials.
Ghiberti was one of the strongest of these masters. Even after sending to Lubeck for the Gambassi family (workers in glass), he did not permit their newly acquired knowledge in all the technic of that time in Germany to influence his ideals of the correct use of glass. Rather he sent to Murano for the deep-toned glass he had found so satisfying on a trip to Venice in 1420. This he used for the construction of the windows of the dome of the Florence Cathedral (Duomo), and gave the execution of the painted work on the glass to artists from the neighboring convent work shops.
    Most characteristic of the windows existing in Italian churches of the Middle Gothic (fourteenth century) period, are those in the Church of St. Francis, Assisi and the Church of San Petronio, Bologna; of the Late Gothic (fifteenth century), in the Duomo, Florence. Of the Renaissance period, which followed the Medieval, good examples may be seen in Milan Cathedral, and the Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence.
    It is thought that Donatello, as well as Ghiberti, may have painted some of the windows of the Duomo in Florence. As a critic remarks, "The employment of artists not connected with glass design would go far to explain the great difference of Italian glass from that of other countries."